The latest version of the Cuba Hand Book 2015 is already published by Christopher P. Baker
U.S. LAW AND TRAVEL TO CUBA
Excerpted from the Cuba Handbook
by Christopher P. Baker
Contrary to popular belief, US law does not prohibit US citizens from visiting Cuba. However, tourism is effectively banned by the Trading With the Enemy Act, which prohibits US citizens from spending money there.
The Cubans have no restrictions on US tourists. On the contrary; they welcome US visitors with open arms. The Cubans are say ”they won’t stamp your passport. As many as 60,000 US citizens visited Cuba in 1995; only about 20% did so legally, while the eest slipped in through third countries.
The regulations change frequently. For the latest provisions, contact the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), US Department of the Treasury, Washington, D.C. 20200, tel. (202) 622-2520. Request the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. The Treasury Department maintains an online home site describing the various categories at http://www.cntraveler.com/code/cuba.html.
The following regulations applied to US citizens and residents at press time (the text is reprinted verbatim from a US State Department bulletin issued in March 1996):
The US Department of the Treasury’s Cuban Assets Control Regulations . . . require that persons subject to US jurisdiction traveling to and within Cuba need a Department of the Treasury license in order to buy goods (a meal at a hotel, for example) or services (an airline ticket, tour package, or hotel room).
The following categories of travelers are permitted to spend money for Cuban travel without the need to obtain special permission from the US Treasury Department:
Official Government Travelers. US and foreign government officials, including representatives of international organizations of which the United States is a member, who are traveling on official business.
Journalists regularly employed in such capacity by a news reporting organization.
Persons who are visiting to visit close relatives in Cuba in circumstances of extreme humanitarian need. This authorization is valid without a specific license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control only once every 12 months.
Special licenses may be issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control on a case by case basis authorizing travel transactions by persons in connection with the following travel categories:
Humanitarian Travel. Persons traveling to Cuba (1) to visit close relatives in cases involving extreme hardship, such as terminal illness or severe medical emergency, (2) persons traveling to Cuba to accompany licensed humanitarian donations (other than gift parcels), or (3) persons traveling in connection with activities of recognized human rights organizations investigating specific human rights violations.
Travel in connection with professional research or similar activities, for clearly defined educational or religious activities, or for purposes related to the exportation, importation, or transmission of informational materials, including provision of telecommunications services.
Except as specifically licensed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, payments in connection with any other travel to Cuba are prohibited, whether travelers go directly or via a third country such as Mexico, Canada, or another Caribbean island.
“Fully hosted” travel to Cuba is not restricted, provided that the travel is not aboard a direct flight between the United States and Cuba. A fully hosted traveler may pay for transportation only if aboard a non-Cuban carrier. Travelers whose expenses are covered by a person not subject to US jurisdiction may not bring back any Cuban origin goods, except for informational materials.
What You May Buy: Money may be spent only for purchases of items directly related to travel such as hotel accommodations, meals, and goods personally used by the traveler in Cuba at a rate not to exceed $100 per day or for the purchase of $100 worth of Cuban merchandise to be brought into the United States as accompanied baggage. Purchases of services related to travel, such as nonemergency medical services, are prohibited . . . The purchase of publications and other informational material is not restricted in any way.
A Range of Options
Many ordinary US citizens and residents can also qualify for official travel status as “researchers.” The law states that “Specific licenses for transactions related to travel to, from, and within Cuba may be issued for persons engaging in professional research and similar activities” (my emphasis). Several organizations are licensed to offer educational trips and can assist you to meet qualification requirements.
In addition, “Specific licenses will be issued to persons for travel to Cuba for clearly defined educational activities . . . attendance at a meeting or conference . . . activities related to study for an undergraduate or graduate degree sponsored by a college or university located in the United States.”
Prior to October 1995, when the process became even more politicized as to who would be granted licenses, freelance journalists could travel to Cuba without asking Uncle Sam’s permission. Now they, too, need a license, thereby allowing the US government to veto the entry of particular journalists.
If you want to go it alone and try the “journalist” or “researcher” angle, write to the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets
Control, Department of the Treasury, 1331 G Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20220, tel. (202) 376-0922. The Treasury Department requires a written statement of why your proposed trip falls within the rules for permissible travel. If your story is convincing, you should get approval in two or three months.
You may also travel legally by booking a prepaid, all-inclusive package with companies such as Wings of the World.
far simpler alternativethe route chosen by the vast majority of US visitors to Cubaâ€”is to forget the legal restrictions and simply go!
Will You Be Fined?
Trading with Cuba is good for up to a US$250,000 fine and 10 years in prison, but arresting people for merely vacationing in Cuba is not high on the US government’s list of priorities. To my knowledge, no one has been prosecuted merely for going to Cuba and spending money there as a tourist.
Cuba’s tourism boom is fueling an increase in traffic on the 40 airlines that service Cuba. Charters account for about 90% of arrivals. Leading international carriers have regular scheduled service from Europe, Canada, and Central and South America, and more are being added. If you want flexibility, choose your airline carefullyâ€”some are notoriously accommodating, others not.
The US government bans flights between the US and Cuba, and all flights to and from Cuba are forbidden from using US airspace.
Cuba has a well-developed air transport network, with six international airports: CamagÃ¼ey (Ignacio Agramonte), Cayo Coco, Havana (Jose Marti International), Holguin (Frank Pais Airport), Santiago de Cuba (Antonio Maceo Airport), and Varadero (Juan Gualberto Gomez). Most flights land at either Havana or Varadero, with Santiago and HolguÃn (which serves the beaches of Guardalavaca and Santa Lucia) of secondary importance.
Ensure that you make your reservation as early as possible (several months in advance would be ideal), especially during peak season, as flights are often oversold. Always reconfirm your reservation within 72 hours of your departure (reservations are frequently canceled if not reconfirmed, especially during Dec.-Jan. holidays), and arrive at the airport with at least two hours to spare. Avoid reservations that leave little time for connectionsâ€”baggage transfers and Customs and immigration procedures may take more time than planned.
I recommend using a travel agent for reservations (most do not charge a fee, but instead derive their income from commissions already figured into the airlines’ fee). The agent’s computer will display most of the options, usually including seat availability and current fares, and they have the responsibility to chase down refunds in the event of overbooking, cancellations, etc.
Cubana de Aviacion
Cuba’s national airline is Cubana de Aviacion, which celebrated its 67th anniversary in 1996. Cubana’s flights to the US were discontinued in 1962 and have not been revived. After the US embargo was imposed, the airline’s vintage Bristol Britannia planes were replaced by Soviet-made aircraft, including 32-passenger Yak-40s, 120-passenger Yak-42s, 156-passenger TU-154s, and 168-passenger IL-62s. They’re adequately comfortable, if a little rough around the edges (and smelly; I’ve even seen cockroaches on board), with the same space between seats as on Western jets, which they copy. Cubana recently added several 44-passenger Fokker-27s, plus two 309-passenger DC-10s. The airline’s only First Class (Clase Tropical) service is on its DC-10s.
At press time, Cubana offered regular scheduled service between Cuba and Barcelona, Berlin, BogotÃ¡, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Cancun, Caracas, Fort de France, Frankfurt, GuayaquÃl, Kingston, Las Palmas, Lima, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Mendoza, Mexico City, MontrÃ©al, Moscow, Panama City, Paris, Puerto Pitre, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, San JosÃ© (Costa Rica), Santiago de Chile, Santiago de Compostela (Spain), Sao Paulo, and Toronto. Additional services are slated. Cubana offers charter flights between Cuba and Buenos Aires, Cologne, Gran Cayman, Guadalajara, Lisbon, Madrid, Mexico City, Montego Bay, Montevideo, Nassau, Paris, Quito, Santiago de Chile, Santo Domingo, Toronto, and Veracruz.
Cubana’s attitude toward scheduled departures is cavalierâ€”flight times change frequently. But its safety record is good. Ensure that you check in on time on your day of departure; the airline is notorious for disposing of seats of passengers who arrive after the scheduled check-in time.
Overhead bins are smaller than in US- and European-made planes. Often, you’ll find people smoking on nonsmoking flights.
Cubana’s fares are generally lower than other airlines’.
Several airlines fly direct to Cuba from Europe (or with a refueling stop at Gander, in Canada, en route). American Airlines, British Airways, Continental, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic fly from London to Miami, where you can connect with an airline to the Bahamas, and from there to Cuba (see “From the Caribbean,” below). Note, however, that if flying aboard a US carrier, you will have to make your reservation for the Bahamas-Cuba leg separately.
From the UK: Until November 1996, Cubana, 49 Conduit St., London W1, tel. (171) 734-1165, fax (171) 437-0681, flew from Stansted using a DC-10 leased from France’s AOM airline, departing Thursday, and returning from Havana on Wednesday (Â£360 roundtrip; flight time is nine hours). However, at press time, Cubana was scheduled to transfer operations to Gatwick. Tickets are supposedly valid for two weeks only, and dates are not changeable. In spring 1996, Journey Latin America, 14-16 Devonshire Rd., London W4 2HD, tel. (0181) 747-3108, fax (0181) 742-1312, offered roundtrip between London and Havana for Â£358/424 (low/high-season).
All-Jamaica, 130 Bury New Rd., Whitefield, Manchester M45 6AD, tel. (0161) 796-9222, fax (0161) 796-9444, promotes UK-Jamaica-Cuba trips using Air UK Leisure. It has charters to Montego Bay from Manchester on Sunday and from Gatwick on Monday, connecting with flights to Cuba. You can also connect with flights to Cuba from Jamaica using British Airways or Air
Jamaica from Heathrow. (At press time, British Airways was considering launching direct flights to Havana.)
You can also nip over to Amsterdam on Air UK and connect with Martinair’s nonstop flight to HolguÃn. Alternately, you could fly to Ireland with Aer Lingus and take Aeroflot, 69-72 Picadilly, London W1V 9HH, tel. (171) 491-1764; in Cuba, Calle 23 #54, esq. Infanta, Vedado, Havana, tel. 33-3200 or 70-6292, fax 33-3288, to Havana from Shannon for Â£445 on Saturday, Monday, or Wednesday, returning one day later. The ticket is valid for one month only. You can also take Iberia from Heathrow via Madrid (Â£549 during low season; check to see if they still have a companion fare, which was recently Â£295). You’ll need to change planes in Madrid (the airline may pay for any requisite overnight stay). You can also fly Viasa Airlines from Heathrow with a change of aircraft in Caracas (£460 in low season). It departs Tuesday and Saturday, returning Monday and Friday. Air UK
Leisure has a charter flight to Camaguey and Varadero.
“Bucket shops” advertise in London’s What’s On,Time Out, and leading Sunday newspapers. Trailfinders, 42 Earl’s Court Rd., London W8 6EJ, tel. (181) 747-3108, specializes in cheap fares throughout Latin America. STA Travel, 74 Old Brompton Rd., London SW7, tel. (171) 937-9971, fax (171) 938-5321, specializes in student fares. STA also has offices at 25 Queens Rd., Bristol; 38 Sydney St., Cambridge; 75 Deansgate, Manchester; and 19 High St., Oxford. Alternately, try Council Travel, 28A Poland St., London W1V 3DB, tel. (171) 437-7767.
From Spain:Cubana flies direct to Havana from Madrid on Monday and Friday, from Barcelona on Saturday, and from Santiago de Compostela on Monday using a DC-10. Iberia, tel. 587-8785, also flies to Havana from Madrid, daily except Friday.
From Germany:Cubana operates a DC-10 to Havana from Frankfurt on Saturday and from Berlin via Brussels on Sunday. It also flies from Frankfurt to Santiago de Cuba on Saturday and has charter service from Cologne to both Holguin and Havana on Friday. LTU, tel. 0190-211767, fax (0211) 927-0000, Internet address http://www.ltu.de, operates charters from Dusseldorf to Havana on Friday, Holguin on Wednesday, and Varadero on Monday (from Frankfurt on Sunday) for about DM1,470; or about £450 roundtrip with a connecting flight from London and a three-month maximum stay. Condor, tel. (061) 07- 755440, fax (061) 07-7550, also operates charters from Germany.
From Elsewhere in Europe:Cubana flies direct to Havana from Paris on Sunday and via Santiago de Cuba on Saturday, Las Palmas on Tuesday and Friday, Lisbon on Thursday, Moscow on Tuesday, and Rome on Monday. It also has charter flights to Havana, Holguin, and Varadero.
Aeroflot, 69-72 Picadilly, London W1V 9HH, tel. (171) 491-1764; in Cuba, Calle 23 #54, esq. Infanta, Vedado, Havana, tel. 33-3200 or 70-6292, fax 33-3288, flies to Havana from Luxembourg, Moscow, and Shannon (Eire), with connecting service to Lima, Managua, Moscow, Panama City, and Santiago de Chile.
Finnair operates DC-10 service between Helsinki and Holguin. KLM has flights to Havana from Amsterdam on Wednesday and Sunday (£550 from London, low-season). Martinair flies to Holguin and Varadero from Amsterdam on Saturday, serving the Dutch-run hotels of Guardalavaca (from £540 from London; an open-jaw arrangement allows you to return from Varadero).
Lauda Air has service from Austria.
Discount Fares: In Germany, discount fares are available through Council Travel in Dusseldorf, tel. 2113-29088, and Munich, tel. 0898-95022; and from STA Travel, tel. 6943-0191, fax 6943-9858, in Frankfurt. In France, try Uniclam, 63 rue St. Augustin, Paris 75002, tel. (1) 4266-2087; or Voyages Dcouvertes, 21 rue Cambon, Paris, tel. (1) 4261-0001. In Dublin, Ireland, contact Concord Travel, tel. 763232, Cubatravel, tel. 713422, or Smurfit Travel, 38 Dane St., Dublin 2, tel. 774211, fax 01793436.
From Central and South America
In the 1960s, Latin American airlines suspended scheduled flights to Cuba under US pressure. Today, the rush is on, and flightsâ€”many of which are booked solidâ€”serve Cuba from a dozen destinations. Reservations cannot be booked through US travel agencies and tour operators.
From Mexico:Mexicana, tel.(5) 325-0990, and Aeromexico, tel. (5) 207-6311, both operate scheduled service to Cuba from Mexico City (about US$280 one-way, US$420 roundtrip). Cubana offers service from Mexico City on Wednesday and Saturday and from Cancun daily; in Mexico City, Temistocles #246 B esq. Av. Homero, Colonia Polanca, tel. (5) 255-3776, fax (5) 255-0835; in Cancun, Av. Yazchilan #23 SM-24 M-22, Retorno 3 e/ Nir- Cheaven y Tan-Chacte, tel. (87) 73-33. It also has service from Cancun to Varadero on Monday. Fares from CancÃºn begin at about US$180 roundtrip, plus US$24 tax.
TaÃno Tours, 9330 Ignacio Comonfort St., Tijuana, tel. (66) 84-7001, operates five-hour flights between Tijuana and Havana aboard a MD-80 chartered from Aeromexico. The roundtrip flight costs US$399; departures are every Saturday. The company also has weeklong package tours from US$650.
Several companies offer charter flights and packages from Cancun and Merida, including Divermex, Plaza Americas, Cancun, tel. (98) 842325, (98) 845005, fax (98) 842325, ExperTours, tel. (98) 474-08, and Yucatan Tours, Merida, tel. 299-282-582, fax 266-319. One-week packages, including airfare, begin at about US$350. Aero Caribbean has service between Merida and Havana on Friday and Sunday; in Mexico, c/o Merihabana, Calle 59 #508, esq. 62, Hotel Reforma, Merida, tel./fax 23-6612.
Also try Cubanatours, Baja California 255, Edificio B, Despacho 103, Colonia Hipodromo Condesa, Mexico D.F., CP-06100, tel.(5) 264-2107, fax (5) 264-2865.
Warning: Ostensibly, you need to buy a Cuban visa before boarding the aircraft; Mexican operators have you at their mercy and gouge accordingly ”sometimes asking US$50 or more! (They’ll also try to insist that you make reservations for at least two nights’ accommodation.) Note that, for the return leg, you must obtain your tourist card for Mexico before arriving at Havana airport, where tourist cards are not issued; you can obtain one from the Mexican embassy at Calle 12 #518, Miramar, Havana, tel. 33-0856.
From Central America:LACSA in Costa Rica, tel. (506) 232-3555, fax (506) 232-4593, flies from San Jose to Havana on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, returning next day (US$484 roundtrip). Cubana operates flights from San Jose on Wednesday and Sunday, and from Panama City on Sunday (US$499). COPA, c/o Havanatur, Calle 23, No. 64, Vedado, Havana, tel. 33-1758, flies to Havana from Panama City every Monday and Friday. Aero Caribbean operates flights between Havana and Managua, Nicaragua, on Wednesday (in Nicaragua, c/o Aero Segovia, Rpto. Bosques de Altamira #158, Managua, tel./fax 67-8102, for about US$380 roundtrip.
From South America:Cubana has service to Havana from Sao Paulo (Friday), Rio de Janeiro (Friday), Santiago de Chile (Monday), Lima (Saturday ”continuing to Varadero), Quito (Saturday), and Bogota (Friday). It also serves Ciego de Avila from Buenos Aires on Thursday. Viasa, tel. 21125, and Aeropostal, tel. 509-3666, fax 509-4080, also operate from Venezuela; and Ladeco, tel. 639-5053, fax 639-7277, flies to Havana from Santiago de Chile. Cubana also operates charter flights to Havana from Guayaquil and Quito in Ecuador (Saturday) and Caracas (Saturday).
From the Caribbean
From the Bahamas: Cubana offers charter flights to Havana from Nassau on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. You can book through Majestic Tours, tel. (809) 328-0387, and Bahatours (also known as Havanatur Nassau), P.O. Box N-10246, Nassau, Bahamas, tel. (809) 322-2796, fax (809) 361-1336, which offer charter flights for US$120 one-way or US$192 roundtrip, plus two- to seven-night packages to Havana and Varadero beginning at US$199 (two nights) including roundtrip airfare, transfers, and accommodations. Departure times change frequently.
Returning from Cuba, you pass through Bahamian immigration (there is no in-transit lounge). Don’t mention to Bahamian Customs that you’re in transit from Cuba, as they go “on notice” and will likely search your bags. The departure terminal for flights to the US is next door (to the left of the exit from the arrivals hall). You must pass through US Immigration and Customs here. If you’re a US citizen, they won’t know that you’ve been in Cuba unless you tell them (although I suspect that the immigration forms handed in to Bahamian officials may be passed on to US immigration). However, US officials will ask you where you stayed in the Bahamas and how long. If you choose to tell the truth, expect to be searched (and to have your Cuban purchases confiscated); if you choose not to tell the truth, you’ll be expected to name the Bahamas hotel where you stayed; any hesitation may give the game away. US Customs officials can be snide and peevish ”one of my friends had all her Cuban cigars snapped in two before her eyes!
From the Cayman Islands: Eddy Tours, P.O. Box 31097, Grand Cayman, tel. (809) 949-4606, fax (809) 949-4095, operates charters using Cubana (Friday and Sunday).
From the Dominican Republic:Cubana has charter service to Havana from Santo Domingo on Thursday (via Santiago) and Sunday. Aero Caribbean, Avenida 23 #64, e/ P y Infanta, Vedado, Havana, tel. 78-6813, fax 33-5016; in the Dominican Republic, c/o Agencia Coturca, Avenida Sadalha #200, Plaza Milton, Santiago de los Caballeros, tel. 971-0041, and AeroGaviota, Avenida 47 #2814 e/ 28 y 34, Reparto Kohly, Playa, Havana, tel. 81-3068, fax 33-2621, also operate twice-weekly flights between Puerto Plata and Santiago and Havana.
From Jamaica: Cubana has scheduled flights to Havana from Kingston on Wednesday and Saturday and charter service to Varadero and Havana from Montego Bay on Friday and Sunday. Several Jamaican tour companies utilize these flights.
Caribic Vacations, 69 Gloucester Av., Montego Bay, tel. (809) 979-0322, fax (809) 979-3421, offers charter flights from Montego Bay to Varadero and Havana on Friday and Sunday. Roundtrip flights cost US$199 (US$179 one-way). Flight times change with seasons; check for latest details. At press time it planned on replacing Yak-41s with Boeing 737s.
InterCaribe, 11 1/2 Ardenne Rd., Kingston 10, tel. (809) 978-2150, fax (809) 978-2686, has a charter flight to Santiago de Cuba from Kingston on Friday, returning on Sunday. It also has flights to Havana from Kingston, departing on Wednesday. Sunholiday
Tours,P.O. Box 531, Montego Bay, St. James, Jamaica, tel. (809) 952-5629, fax (809) 979-0725, in the US, tel. (800) 433-2920, also has flights departing Montego Bay for Havana on Saturday, and for Santiago de Cuba (US$148 one-way, US$165 roundtrip) on Thursday.
The national commuter airline, Air Jamaica Express, was considering opening routes to Cuba in 1996. For the latest information, contact Air Jamaica, tel. (800) 523-5585 in the US; in Jamaica, tel. (809) 929-0834, fax (809) 929-0833.
From Elsewhere: Cubana operates charter service between Havana and Sint Maarten, Fort-de-France in Martinique (Friday), and Pointe-a-Pitre in Guadeloupe (Friday). And it plans to add service to Bridgetown (Barbados). In late 1995, BWIA opened talks with Cubana about code-sharing arrangements that would see Cubana using Trinidad as a hub for South America routes.
Aero Gaviota also offers charter flights from the Caribbean and Central and South America.
From Hong Kong, one of the easiest routes is with Iberia nonstop from Macau to Madrid and then on to Havana. Flying nonstop to Los Angeles, then to Mexico City, Tijuana, or Cancun is also easy. Alternately, fly United or Malaysia Airlines to Mexico City (20 hours) and catch a flight next day to Havana (three hours). A roundtrip economy ticket is about HK$16,340, depending on the agent.
A company called Travel Network, 11th Floor, On Lan Centre, 11-15 On Lan St., Central, Hong Kong, tel. (852) 2845-4545, fax (852) 2868-5824, has experience booking travel to Cuba. Ask for Alene Freidenrich. The company custom-designs packages for individuals. It also offers a six-day trip (US$1,700 plus airfare). Alene can arrange visas, or contact the Cuban Honorary Consul, tel. (852) 2525-6320; allow seven working days (HK$250).
You’ll find no direct flights to Cuba, nor any bargain fares. The best bet is to fly to Los Angeles and then to Cuba via Mexico, or to Miami and then via the Bahamas. A route from Sydney via Buenos Aires or Santiago de Chile and then to Havana is also possible. Specialists in discount fares include STA Travel, 220 Faraday St., Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria 3053, tel. (03) 347-4711 or (03) 347-6911, fax (03) 347-0608; or 1A Lee St., Railway Sq., Sydney 2000, tel. (02) 212-1258. In New Zealand, contact STA at 10 High St., Auckland, tel. (09) 309-9723, fax (09) 309-9829; 10 O’Connell St., Wellington, tel. (09) 309-9191; orâ€”get this ”207 Cuba St., Wellington, tel. (04) 385-0561.
Cubatours, 235 Swan St., Richmond, Victoria 3121, tel. (3) 9428-0385, specializes in air-land packages to Cuba, as does Melbourne-based Cuba World, tel.(3) 9867-1200.
BY CRUISE SHIP
The US embargo has restricted the cruise industry’s access to Cuba. No US company can operate cruises to Cuba, and because foreign-owned vessels cannot dock in the US within six months of visiting Cuba or carrying Cuban passengers or goods, even foreign companies have shunned Cubaâ€”until recently.
The Italian company Costa Crociere initiated cruises to Cuba in October 1995 by forming a separate companyâ€”Costa
Cruceros, Costa Crociere, Via D’Annunzio, 2-16121 Genova, Italy, and repositioning its Ocean Pearl, a 500-passenger vessel which it renamed Costa Playa. The vessel departs from Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic every Tuesday at 8 p.m. and stops at Montego Bay, Jamaica, Santiago de Cuba, Havana, and Nipe, in Cuba. The cruises are operated in association with the French cruise company Paquet. You can also take the eight-day cruise package starting from and returning to Havana (departures every Friday). Per person rates begin at US$1,190 (low-season), US$1,350 (middle), US$1,511 (high), and US$1,748 (Christmas and New Year). Suites begin at US$1,961. Prices are all-inclusive (even tips are included), which means that US citizens can legally take the cruise, so long as they don’t spend money in Cuba or tip the ship’s Cuban staff. Shore excursions are additional. Air-sea packages are offered from Madrid each Tuesday, year-round.
Likewise, in November 1996, Cuba launched the Melia Don Juan, with 203 staterooms and nine deluxe suites. The vessel is operated under a management contract by Spain’s Melia Hoteles, in Cuba, tel. 53-5-667013, fax 55-5-667162; in Italy, tel. 016-701-1692, fax 039-605-8063; in Germany, tel. 01-302301, fax, 02131-63467; in the UK, tel. 800-282720, fax 171-916-3431. It departs Cienfuegos each Friday for a three-day cruise to Cayo Largo and Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands), and each Monday for a four-day cruise to Cayman Brac (Cayman Islands), Santiago de Cuba, and Montego Bay (Jamaica). You can take the weeklong cruise, and even board the vessel in Grand Cayman on Saturday or in Montego Bay on Thursday, c/o JTL Jamaica Tours, tel. (809) 953-3132, fax (809) 953-2107. Melia plans to begin basing a second cruise ship to Havana.
Cuba Cruise Watch is an occasional newsletter published by Vacations at Sea, 4919 Canal St. #102, New Orleans, LA 70119, tel. (318) 482-1572 or (800) 749-4950. The Cruise Line Industry Association may be able to provide the latest information on cruises to Cuba, 500 5th Ave. #1407, New York, NY 10110, tel. (212) 921-0066.
Until a few years ago, most yachters kept a safe distance from Cuban shorelines. Understandably: Cuban authorities kept a keen eye out to make sure anti-Castro exiles weren’t attempting one of their guerrilla attacks. Word on the grapevine was that foreign boats might be seized. Whatever the foundation of early fears, Cuba today offers a warm reception to visitors arriving by sea. Yachts from many countries bob at anchor at marinas and coves around the island. Many cruisers come from other Caribbean islands, Europe, or Canada. But as Simon Charles reports in his excellent Cruising Guide to Cuba, “the vast majority of foreign boats cruising Cuban waters have transited from Florida.”
The US State Dept. advises that “US citizens are discouraged from traveling to Cuba in private boats” and permits such travel “only after meeting all US and Cuban government documentation and clearance requirements.”
Scores of sailors ”including US citizens in US-registered vessels “sail to Cuba each year without incident and without breaking the law (which for US citizens means spending no money there; ostensibly, you’ll need to find a non-US citizen to pay your berth fees, and I presume you will cater yourself with food brought from the US. Get the picture?).
Note: An executive order signed by President Clinton in spring 1996 states that vessels leaving Florida with the intention of entering Cuban territory may be confiscated by US authorities. The act was aimed at dissuading anti-Castro radicals from rash acts. Check with skippers who’ve recently sailed to Cuba to find out how this translates in reality. Most US skippers I’ve spoken to have had no problems when they return to the US as long as they don’t have their holds full of Cuban cigars!
Many guidebooks report that you must request permission at least two weeks in advance from Cuban authorities to call in. This is wrong. No advance permission is required.
Yacht Charters and Crewing
US citizens should refer to Treasury Department regulations regarding chartering vessels for travel to Cuba. Charter companies in the Bahamas may permit travel to Cuba. Try Nassau Yacht Haven, tel. (809) 393-8173. In the UK, contact Alan Toone of Compass Yacht Services, Holly Cottage, Heathley End, Chislehurst, Kent BR7 6AB, tel. (181) 467-2450. Alan arranges yacht charters and may be able to assist in finding a crewing position.
Maps and Charts
You’ll need accurate maps and charts, especially for the reef-infested passage from the Bahamas. British Admiralty charts, US Defense Mapping Agency charts, and Imray yachting charts are all accurate and can be ordered from Bluewater Books & Charts, 1481 S.E. 17th St., Causeway, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316, tel. (305) 763-6533 or (800) 942-2583. In Havana, you can purchase nautical charts from El Navigante in Habana Vieja, Calle Mercaderes #115, Habana Vieja; Cuba CP 10100, Gaveta Postal 130, tel. 61-3625, fax 33-2869.
Your Reception in Cuba
I’ve cruised to and from Cuba, have spent considerable time at Cuban marinas, and can vouch that your reception in Cuba will most likely be thoroughly welcoming. However, I’ve heard one horrifying tale from two English crew members who claim to have had their yacht impounded by corrupt officials in Cuba after they ran aground. At the present time, the United States and Cuba do not have a Coast Guard agreement. Therefore, although the Cuban authorities have usually proven to be exceedingly helpful to yachters in distress, “craft developing engine trouble or other technical difficulties in Cuban territorial waters cannot expect assistance from the US Coast Guard.” Cuba’s territorial waters extend 12 miles out.
Traveling with Private Skippers
A surprising number of skippers ferry passengers to Cuba. It’s possible to find private skippers sailing to Havana from Florida, New Orleans, and other ports along the southern seaboard, as well as from the Bahamas. Boats leave all the time from marinas along the Florida Keys. You can call various marinas for recommendations.
In the US, if you plead your case sufficiently well, you might try a humanitarian organization called Basta!, 7 Higgs Ln., Key West, FL 33049, tel./fax (305) 294-6940, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. It has 38 registered vessels on call to carry humanitarian aid under license from the Treasury Department. Note, however, that they do not take ordinary citizens looking for a way to sneak into Cuba.
If you don’t arrange a return trip with the same skipper, you’ll find plenty of yachts flying the Stars and Stripes at Marina Hemingway in Havana. There’ll usually be a skipper willing to run you back to Florida. Be flexible. Pinpointing exact vessel departure dates and times is nearly impossible, especially in winter. As Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Brother, don’t let anybody tell you there isn’t plenty of water between Key West and Havana!” A nasty weather front can delay your departure as much as a week or more.
Warning: There’s nothing illegal if passengers don’t spend money in Cuba and if skippers don’t charge for passage to or from Cuba. You may be questioned about this by US Customs or Immigration, who’ll take a dim view of things. If a skipper asks for money, legally you must decline. Consider negotiating a free passage; of course, diesel fuel is expensive, so you may feel charitably inclined (vessels seem to use anywhere from US$200 to US$400 worth of fuel for a trip across the Straits of Florida).
Joining an organized tour offers certain advantages over traveling independently, such as the learning passed along by a knowledgeable guide. Tours are also good bets for those with limited time: you’ll proceed to the most interesting places without the unforeseen delays and distractions that can be the bane of independent travel. Everything is usually taken care of from your arrival to your departure, including transportation and accommodations. The petty bureaucratic hassles and language problems you may otherwise not wish to face are eliminated, too. And several companies buy hotel rooms and airline seats in bulk, then pass the savings on to you.
Most organized tours to Cuba focus on the cultural and historical experience, although a growing number focus on special-interest travel. Check the tour inclusions carefully to identify any hidden costs such as airport taxes, tips, service charges, extra meals, and entertainment. Most tours are priced according to quality of accommodation, from deluxe to budget.
Most US organizations that offer trips to Cuba are not accredited tour and travel operators and do not offer consumer-protection programs.
However, all operators in Canada and the United Kingdom offering tours to Cuba must by law guarantee full repayment in the case of default. Consider trip cancellation insurance. Paying for your tour by credit card is a good idea; in the event of a serious complaint you can challenge the charge.
Within Cuba, there are several state-run tour agencies that offer organized excursions and tours to all the major sites and attractions.
Most are up to Western levels of efficiency and service. English-speaking guides, private transportation, meals, and accommodations are standard inclusions. This gives you the added flexibility of making your own tour arrangements once you’ve arrived in Cuba and gained a better sense of your options and desires.
US Citizens Traveling to Cuba
Fortunately, US citizens can legally travel to Cuba on certain organized tours. Organizations that arrange trips to Cuba are required to obtain special government authorized licenses.
Most programs are “study” tours that provide a deep immersion in particular aspects of Cuban life and issues. While the focus of most tours is educational, there’s usually plenty of time for relaxation. By joining such groups you’ll enjoy the advantage of coming to understand a little more of Cuba, perhaps, than would the average tourist. Participants usually have to demonstrate serious interest in the subject of study; in reality, this often proves a formality, especially in the realm of “arts,” where the State Dept. accepts that it is difficult for artists to make a living as professionals.
Conventional Tours from Other Countries
(See the information on charter airlines in this section for companies offering tour packages from Canada, Mexico, and other destinations.) In Germany, contact Pegasus Havanna (it also has an office in Havana at Avenida 7, Calle 44, tel. 33-1903, fax 33-1904).
In Switzerland, try Jelmoli Reisen, tel. (1) 211- 1357, and in France, Havanatur, tel. (1) 4742-5858.
Excursions from Jamaica are very popular with US citizens. Caribic Vacations, 69 Gloucester Ave., Montego Bay, tel. (809) 979-0322, fax (809) 979-3421, offers two-, five-, and seven-night packages with guided city tours plus a choice of hotels in either Havana or Varadero. Packages begin at US$289. InterCaribe, 11 1/2 Ardenne Rd., Kingston 10, tel. (809) 978-2150, fax (809) 978-2686, offers three- and seven-night packages to Santiago de Cuba and Havana from Kingston for as little as US$239.
Sunholiday, P.O. Box 531, Montego Bay, St. James, Jamaica, tel. (809) 952-5629, fax (809) 979-0725, in the US tel. (800) 433-2920, has “Cuba for a Day” excursions for US$179, including airfare and sightseeing, plus a “Weekend in Havana” for US$269.
Cuba has cliched beaches, but it also has bush. Ecotourism has come late to the Caribbean, and not least to Cuba, which depends heavily on resort-based, sun-seeking tourists. Despite its vast acreage in national parks and the diversity of its landscapes, Cuba’s ecotourism potential remains virtually untapped. Cuba has very few naturalist guides. And so-called “eco-lodges” are mostly merely lodges set in wilderness areas. But a beginning has been made, such as at the stunning Moka Eco-Hotel in Pinar del Rio province.
Ecotourism is beginning to rise on the neap of an eco-sensitive tide.
A newly formed entity, Cubamar, Hotel Plaza, 5th Floor, Habana Vieja, tel. 33-8317, is focusing on developing camping and ecotourism. Alcona S.A., Calle 42 #514, esq. Avenida 7, Playa, Habana, tel. 22-2526, fax 33-1531, has a series of weeklong eco-tour packages to the Cayos de San Felipe; nature reserves in the Sierra del Rosarios mountains; Los Indios Nature Reserve on Isla de la Juventud; Desembarco del Granma National Park; and Pico Turquino National Park.
Global Exchange, 2017 Mission St. #303, San Francisco, CA 94110, tel. (415) 255-7296 or (800) 497-1994, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org., offers study tours that provide insights into Cuba’s sustainable development projects. The trips focus on sustainable agriculture, traditional medicines, and renewable energy.
Delta Cuba Hotels & Resorts, 350 Bloor St. East #300, Toronto, Ontario M4W 1H4, tel. (416) 926-7800 or (800) 268-1133, fax (416) 926-7846; in Cuba, Calle 248 y Avenida 5, Santa Fe, Havana, tel. 33-6336, offers an all-inclusive seven-day eco-tour utilizing four eco-lodges in Oriente. Highlights include a jeep ride into the Sierra Maestra and Sierra de Nipe for hiking and horseback riding.
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Heritage and Culture Tours
Every moment in Cuba is a fascinating study in cultural anthropology. Nonetheless, you can make a more serious study of things on numerous organized tours.
In Cuba, Paradiso: Promotora de Viajes Culturales, Calle 19 #560, esq. C, Vedado, Havana, tel. 32-6928, fax 33-3921, arranges visits and participation in cultural courses and programs, such as children’s book publishing (five days, US$300) at the Instituto Cubano del Libro, theater criticism in Cuba (five days, US$60), and contemporary visual art (seven days, US$200). Its catalog of events and festivals for 1995 included classes and studies in ballet and modern dance, the International Benny More Festival, the International Hemingway Colloquium, and the Artisans’ Fair.
The Cuba Information Project, 198 Broadway, Suite 800, New York, NY 10038, tel. (212) 227-3422, fax (212) 227-4859, offers 10-day study tours such as health care in Cuba, the Spanish legacy in Trinidad and Sancti Spiritus, and childcare in rural Cuba (US$1,200). They also offer language study courses.
Global Exchange, 2017 Mission St. #303, San Francisco, CA 94110, tel. (415) 255-7296 or (800) 497-1994, e-mail email@example.com, sponsors study tours to Cuba focusing on different aspects of Cuban life, including health care, art, culture and education, religion, agriculture and ecology, Afro-Cuban culture, women’s issues, and music and dance. Most trips are 10 days long and cost an average of US$1,300, including roundtrip airfare from Mexico or the Bahamas. Occasionally it offers unusual trips such as “Paths to Freedom,” a two-week tour retracing the path that Che Guevera, Fidel Castro, and other young rebels made during their guerrilla war in the Sierra Maestra Mountains.
The organization also collects medical supplies and donations for distribution to Cuba’s organization of disabled people, the America Arias Maternity Hospital, and the William Soler Children’s Hospital. And it was the spearhead of the Freedom to Travel Campaign, an effort to assert US citizens’ constitutional rights to travel to Cuba and bring an end to restrictions.
The Center for Cuban Studies, 124 West 23rd St., New York, NY 10011, tel. (212) 242-0559, fax (212) 242-1937, has fact-finding tours on a monthly basis for members of the center (US$800). The weeklong trips focus on education and health care, urban issues, welfare, etc., and include meetings with experts. It also offers frequent “seminar tours” for nonmembers on a wide variety of themes.
Recent offerings have included Cuban art, the public health system, “Coping With the Crisis,” “Caribbean Cultural Festival,” African roots of Cuba Culture, sexual politics in Cuba, architecture and preservation, and attendance at the Havana Film Festival. Most trips are a week to 10 days in duration and cost from US$900 to US$1,400, including roundtrip airfare from Miami or Nassau.
Cabas Associates, 4915 Broadway, Suite 41, New York, NY 10034, tel. (319) 354-3189 or (800) 446-1234, fax (319) 337-2045, offers study tours of contemporary Cuban society. The one-week itinerary includes visits to Havana, Matanzas, Varadero, and Trinidad (from US$895).
Queers for Cuba, 3543 18th St. #33, San Francisco, CA 94110, tel. (415) 995-4678, operates an annual “solidarity and education delegation” to Cuba each December. The trip focuses on expanding understanding and expressing solidarity with Cuba’s gay and lesbian population.
Expediciones de la Ultima Frontera, 4823 White Rock Circle, Suite H, Boulder, CO 80301-3260, tel. (303) 530-9275, fax (303) 530-9275, offers packages for cigar lovers and to sports-related events such as the Ernest Hemingway International Sports Classic 10K race and the Ernest Hemingway Sportfishing Tournament.
Music and Dance Tours
Cuba’s performing arts are unrivaled within the Caribbean, and it is difficult to imagine a more vital country in which to enjoy music and dance. Consider timing your visit for Carnaval or one of the major folkloric and traditional music festivals held throughout the island. In December 1994, Nidia Berengeuer, director of the Academia de Arte de Cuba initiated an academic program to coordinate international courses in the country.
The Conjunto Folclórico Nacional (National Folklore Dance Group) and Danza ContemporÃ¡nea de Cuba offer twice-yearly, two-week courses in Afro-Cuban music and dance (contact ARTEX, Avenida 5ta #8010 esq. 82, Miramar, Havana, tel. 33-2276 or fax 33-2033). ARTEX also sponsors other courses in the arts and literature, including seminars in cutumba (Franco-Haitian-Cuban song and dance) plus courses at the Cuban School of Ballet (La Escuela Cubana de Ballet), the Instituto Superior de Arte, and the National School of Art (Centro Nacional de Escuelas de Arte).
Caribbean Music and Dance Progams, 1611 Telegraph Ave., Suite 808, Oakland, CA 94612, tel. (510) 444-7173, fax (510) 444-5412, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.arana.com/caribmusic, offers a variety of study courses in Cuba. Each February, the organization offers a two-week Cuban Popular Music & Dance Workshop in association with the Havana Jazz Festival (a one-week trip to the jazz festival costs US$1,100, including seminars “US$800 outside the US). Courses are taught at the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Arte (ENA).
The dance workshopâ€”taught at the Escuela de la Musica, 13013 Calle 9 y 149, Miramar, Havana”is open to everyone from beginners to professionals and includes lively tuition in danzon, son, cha-cha-cha, mambo, rumba, salsa, larueda, and the hip-swiveling despolote. Many of Cuba’s leading musicians teach the music workshop, with instruction in percussion, drumset, piano, bass, guitar, trumpet, trombone, flute, saxophone, violin, and vocals. Chucho Valdes and Irakere, Juan Formell and Los Van Van, Changuito, and legendary flautist Richard Esques are among the faculty who provide one-on-one tuition. Imagine learning guitar from Eric Clapton and you have the idea. The cost is US$1,650 (US$1,350 from outside the US).
The same organization also offers a workshop in Afro-Cuban folkloric music and dance hosted by the legendary groups Los MuÃ±equitos and Grupo AfroCuba, in Matanzas (US$1,350, US$1,100 joining in Havana). You can also explore the roots of son in Oriente province on a two-week tour in mid-summer (US$1,550, US$1,250 joining in Santiago de Cuba). Santiago is also the venue for a “Cuban & Haitian Folkloric Dance & Music Workshop” and one-week packages to the “Festival of Fire” carnival (US$1,100, US$800 joining in Santiago). All prices include airfare from Nassau or Cancun.
The Center for Cuban Studies, 124 West 23rd St., New York, NY 10011, tel. (212) 242-0559, fax (212) 242-1937, also has a one-week seminar on Cuban music in February in collaboration with the Cuban Music Institute and Music Museum (US$1,250, including airfare).
In the UK, Festival Tours International, 96 Providence Lane, Long Ashton, Bristol BS18 9DN, tel./fax 01275-392953, offers packages to Carnaval and the Havana Jazz and Film Festivals. Also contact the Britain-Cuba Dance Student Exchange, Weekends Arts College, Interchange Studios, Dalby St., London NW5 3NQ. Zurich-based Danzamania (in Havana, tel. 32-1476, fax 33- 3722) offers study tours in music and dance in Cuba.
Yes, believe it or not, even US veterans are catered to! Global Exchange, 2017 Mission St., Room 303, San Francisco, CA 94110, tel. (415) 255-7296 or (800) 497-1994, fax (415) 255-7498 in association with Jim Long, a Vietnam veteran, PO Box 40430, San Francisco, CA 94140, email@example.com, offers an annual trip to Cuba for US veterans. offers an annual trip to Cuba for US veterans.
The trips depart in early November and are timed to celebrate Veterans Day in the company of Cuban military veterans. Past programs have included visits to Guantanamo and the Bay of Pigs; military ceremonies honoring the war dead; plus meetings with Cuban military figures, such as General Tamayo, who is the first black and the only Latino American to go into space. In 1995, trip members were able to look down upon the US naval base at Guantanamo from a special viewing area reserved for VlPs.
The trips feature meetings with Cuban veterans of the Spanish Civil War, the Cuban Revolution, the Bay of Pigs, and the Angolan, Ethiopian, and Nicaraguan conflicts, as well as meetings with members of the government and civic groups. Each year the veterans of both countries cooperate in a joint activity such as planting ’Friendship trees“ The trips are open to veterans and veterans’ groups regardless of political leanings. They are operated through a provision in US legislation that permits such tours to be hosted by the Cuban government.
The American Friends Service Committee, Human Resource, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19102, tel. (215) 241-7000, is a Quaker organization which in the past has offered youth from the US and other countries a chance to engage with Cuban youth on three-week summer programs. The program was not offered in 1995 and 1996 but may be resurrected. The program involves summer work camps and conferences in which Christians and communists come together. Participants should be between 18 and 28 years old and fluent in Spanish.
International Peace Walk, 4521 Campus Drive, #211, Irvine, CA 92715, tel. (714) 856-0200, fax (714) 856-0200, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, a group founded to help bring peace between the US and USSR, may offer 12-day “peace walks” in Cuba featuring study programs, working alongside Cubans, news-gathering, delivering humanitarian aid, etc. The 1994 trip (US$1,400, including airfare from Mexico) was canceled by the Cubans.
Pastors for Peace-IFCO, tel. (612) 378-0062, organizes regular US-Cuba Friendshipment Caravans, in which participants openly defy the embargo and assist in delivering medicines and aid to Cuba without a license. The caravans travel through the US collecting donations for transhipment. Since the first caravan, in 1992, more than 1,000 volunteers have delivered over 500 tons of aid.
Similar tours are offered by Volunteers for Peace, c/o International Work Camp, 43 Tiffany Rd., Belmont, VT 05730, tel. (802) 259-2759, fax (802) 259-2922. Participants from throughout the world work alongside Cubans to assist with community development. The three-week trips ”US$1,200 (US$850 for non-US citizens, meeting in Havana) ”are hosted by the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the People (ICAP) but coordinated by people in local communities.
England’s Cuban Solidarity Campaign, 44 Morat St., London SW9 ORR, tel. (171) 820-9976, offers work brigades, including visits to hospitals and schools. Participants work in construction and agriculture. The organization also publishes the CubaSÃ newsletter. Subscriptions cost £4 (unwaged), £12 (waged), or £15-50 (organizations).
Work and Study Exchanges
US citizens are prohibited by US law from working in Cuba in any capacity. However, in October 1995, President Clinton expanded the categories of individuals allowed to visit Cuba by creating a category for academic exchange. The law allows US undergraduates to enroll in Cuban universities and US universities to establish study programs in Cuba. Check the latest situation, as this may have been nixed by passage of the Helms-Burton legislation.
Wayne Smith, former chief of the US Interests Section in Havana (and an outspoken critic of US policy toward Cuba), heads the Cuba Exchange Program offered through the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, 1740 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, tel. (202) 663-5732, fax (202) 663-5737. Smith escorts scholars on learning programs. Also try CamBas Association, tel. (319) 354-3189, fax (319) 338-3320, associated with the University of Iowa. Tulane University and Bates College in Maine also sponsor programs to Cuba ”the perfect liberal arts laboratory.
Mercadu S.A., Calle 13 #951, Vedado, Havana, tel. 33- 3893, fax 33-3028, arranges study visits for foreigners at centers of higher learning throughout Cuba and spanning a wide range of academic subjects. It also arranges working holidays and runs a summer school at the Universities of Havana, Matanzas, and Pinar del RÃo, with over 100 courses listed in its catalog.
If you’re interested in the arts, consider one of the courses arranged by the Instituto Superior de Arte’s Oficina de Relaciones Internacionales, Calle 120 #11110, Playa, Havana, tel. 21-6075, fax 33-6633, e-mail email@example.com, whose menu spans the gamut of the art world. Besides short-term courses, it also accepts foreigners for full-year study beginning in September (from US$2,000 for tuition).
The Escuela Internacional de Cine, Apdo. 4041, San Antonio de los BaÃ±os, Provincia de la Habana, tel. 0650-3152, fax 33-5341, on the outskirts of Havana, offers courses for broadcasting professionals. And the Centro Nacional de ConservaciÃ³n, Calle Cuba #610, Havana, tel. 61-5043, offers courses in architectural and art restoration.
Similarly, in Santiago de Cuba, Promotur Cultural, Casa de la Cultura, Calle 13 #154, Vista de Alegre, Santiago de Cuba, tel. 4-2285, fax 4-2387, offers study courses in Cuban culture from one week to one month, with a special emphasis on music and dance.
The Grupo de Turismo Cientifico Educacional, Avenida 3 #402, Miramar, Havana, tel./fax 33-1697, offers intensive Spanish language courses at the Jose Marti Language Center for Foreigners, Calle 16 #109 in Miramar. They arrange accommodations at Hostal Icemar.
You can also sign up for two-week to four-month Spanish language and Cuban culture courses offered by Mercadu S.A., Calle 13 #951, Vedado, Havana, tel. 33-3893, fax 33-3028. The 14-day package costs US$480 double occupancy, including tuition, basic accommodation, and two meals daily; a one-month program costs US$580; the four-month course costs US$2,300. Single rooms cost US$10 extra per day.
In the US, Global Exchange, 2017 Mission St., Suite 303, San Francisco, CA 94110, tel. (415) 497-1994 or (800) 497-1994, fax (415) 255-7498, offers language study at the Jose Marti Language Center. In the UK, the School of Latin American Spanish, Docklands Enterprise Centre, 11 Marshalsea Rd., London SE1 1EP, tel. (171) 357-8793, offers seven-week regular and intensive summer language courses in Cuba.
Christopher P. Baker is author of Moon’sCuba Handbook as well as the award-winning Costa Rica Handbook.